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Before You Watch the World Series, Here’s What You Need to Know About the Nationals

What's the deal with "Baby Shark?" Why does everyone sing that A-ha song?

While some people are such big Nationals fans that they’ve included the team in their wedding, other less-committed locals are coming to this season’s pennant-winning team relatively fresh. If you haven’t been hanging on every Scherzer slider and Rendon blast, here’s a quick look at some of the biggest mysteries you might encounter during a Nats home game (the World Series will head to Washington for Game 3). And don’t worry: You are still “real fan” even if you haven’t been paying much attention.

Why is the Nats’ theme song “Baby Shark”?

After a disappointing start to the Nats’ season, the team acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra a day after he became a free agent in May. The mid-season recruit has become a symbol of their remarkable turnaround; he hit a grand slam in his second game and things seemed to take off from there. Plus his jolly personality has made the entire viewing experience more fun. Which brings us to “Baby Shark.” Parra started using the viral children’s tune as his walkup song mid-June, while he was in the middle of a slump. It was a favorite of his 2-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and after failed attempts at using hip-hop, reggaeton, and merengue, his experiment with the inescapable earworm seemed to do the trick. Now the song has become an anthem for the whole team. Parra is also the face behind the now-familiar rose-colored sunglasses, which inspired fellow player Aníbal Sánchez to sport a yellow pair.

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Sharks are out. 🦈

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Is that connected to the shark motions that everyone does after the Nats get a hit?

Yep. Parra started the craze, but the Nats and their fans have taken it even further. Now there’s a whole system: A single means everyone does a baby-shark sign (one-handed, similar to a pinch), a double gets everyone making a mama-shark motion (both hands, bending at the wrist), and a triple or home run earns a full-fledged, all-arm daddy-shark movement. The players also dance in the dugout after a home run because, well, who wouldn’t dance after a home run?

Who’s Soto staring at?

Left fielder Juan Soto is the season’s breakout young star, and he has an unusual routine at the plate, which fans have nicknamed the “Soto Shuffle.” It involves an uncomfortably intense stare-down of the pitcher, a shuffle of his feet, and a distinctive squaring of his body towards the mound after any ball—all of which is presumably meant to psych out the pitcher (the Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas, for example, is not a fan). Critics have said all of this is disrespectful to baseball’s unwritten rules. Soto refuses to get rid of it entirely, but he has said he’s dialing it back.

Why is everyone so mad at Bryce Harper?

Previously the team’s biggest star, Harper was acquired in the 2010 draft, when he was just 19. When his contract expired at the end of last season, DC fans hoped loyalty would keep him on the team, but he ultimately chose to Acela up to Philadelphia for a $330 million, 13-year contract, the largest in MLB history. Many fans remain furious over what they see as a slight (even though the Nationals didn’t offer him anywhere near that much money). Harper, for his part, seems to have little animosity towards his old team. He told the Athletic last week that he’s “so happy” for them and he’s been following the series.

What’s the deal with “Take On Me,” that 1980s A-ha song?

It just wouldn’t be a seventh-inning stretch without “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” followed by “Take On Me.” The A-ha tune used to be the walkup song for former Nats player Michael Morse, and the team decided to keep playing it after he was traded in 2013 to the Mariners. Now it’s become a rousing crowd singalong, with just about everybody struggling in unison to hit that insane high note.

Why do they boo pitcher Sean Doolittle?

They don’t, though it sounds like it. In the tradition of fans who yell “Broooce” at Springsteen, spectators are actually saying “Dooooo” when the reliever comes out of the bullpen. But don’t feel too bad—it sounds so similar that Doolittle himself was confused during the Home Run Derby.

It’s only one part of fans’ love for the quirky Doolittle. Single-handedly destroying the nerds-versus-jocks stereotype, he’s gained a lot of DMV love for his Star Wars obsession. After taking home the pennant, Doolittle partied with his life-size lightsaber, interrupting an interview and fighting a beer bottle. He even has a bobblehead of Obie Sean Kenobi. Win or don’t win the series, Sean. There is no try.

Who’s that vaguely familiar guy behind home plate?

You know, the one sitting above the NA in a red sweatshirt? It’s Robert Allbritton, founder of Politico. Other celeb fans include Wolf Blitzer, Katie Ledecky, Maury Povich (who was a bat boy for the Senators in the ’40s), and Kevin Durant. Durant is such a super-fan that he even has the team’s logo tattooed on his belly.

Why have they been wearing blue rather than red and white?

For most of the playoffs, they have been rocking their blue alternate uniforms instead of their more-familiar red-and-white getup. As far as anyone can tell, it’s because they’ve had so much post-season success while wearing the blue threads and they’re not about to jinx it. Things are so superstitious that no one from the team is even talking about it.

But that might change for Game 1. The Astros, who also sometimes wear navy blue, are the home team for the first game, meaning they get to pick which color to wear. Since league rules don’t allow teams to wear similar colors at the same time, they might force the Nats back into another uniform. The Nats get to pick jerseys for games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary), so blue could make a comeback. Unless they win while wearing white and red, in which case…well, we’ll see.

Is that the guy from Hotels.com I see at all the games?

No, it’s actually Captain Obvious, a DC native otherwise known as Ted Peters. The nickname came after color commentator F.P. Santangelo’s jokes about being Captain Obvious, and the look actually was inspired by the Hotels character. Bonus fact: He’s also friends with the guy famous for not shaving his beard until the Nats win the series, B.J. Treuting.

 

 

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Michaela Althouse
Editorial Fellow

Michaela Althouse is an editorial fellow for the Washingtonian. Her previous work has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine and Technical.ly.